By Rep. Mike Sanders
Now that the legislative session is in full swing, House committees and subcommittees are meeting, and our first pieces of legislation are being considered on the House Floor.
We have until Feb. 17 to move bills out of an Appropriations & Budget subcommittee and until Feb. 27 to advance them from regular committees. We then have until March 12 to pass bills on the House floor before they move to the Senate.
Last week, the House passed House Bill 1182 that would revoke the license of a physician performing an abortion in the state. I’ve heard the argument by some that this bill does not go far enough in stopping the slaughter of our unborn, but it does at least further restrict this horrendous practice. In my view, every restriction we place on abortion is a positive step in the right direction until Roe v. Wade is overturned as the law of the land.
Another measure I supported was a bill that will now classify domestic violence strangulation as a violent crime. Oddly enough, the way the law is currently written strangulation committed during a domestic violence situation received a maximum penalty of less time than if it was committed as a random act. This law changes that and properly classifies it for what it is – a violent crime. It further seeks to protect victims by increasing the penalty for this crime to up to 10 years in prison for a first offense and 20 years for a second.
Also this week, the speaker of the House announced a bill that would give doctors who choose to practice in rural areas a $25,000 tax credit each year. The bill defines rural communities as any municipality with a population of less than 25,000 and that is also located at least 25 miles from the nearest municipality with a population greater than 25,000. This will give those who enjoy their rural way of life greater access to primary care doctors.
The speaker also intends to introduce additional legislation this session to address rural health care worker shortages by instituting improved professional licensing reciprocity for health care professionals. Doing so would make it easier for licensed health care workers from other states to practice in Oklahoma as long as their existing license meets Oklahoma’s standards.
One bill that earned my no vote is House Bill 1992. This would authorize the governing body of a municipality to initiate creation of a public safety protection district made up of all territory located in the municipality, and would allow the district to institute its own property tax for the purpose of funding public safety protections. This is being pushed by large urban cities, and yet rural communities filled with farmers and ranchers will be primary payers of this tax. Even residents in unincorporated areas who would not get a vote but could be forced to pay a higher property tax.
Municipalities already have the opportunity to raise sales taxes to support public services if their residents agree. Why doesn’t Tulsa do this instead of coming after farmers and ranchers for higher property taxes? This is just another example of urban vs. rural. I have voted no on similar bills my entire legislative career because I stand with my farmers and ranchers.
I am so supportive of public safety, as you all know. I just think there was a better way to do this
In future columns, I will detail additional bills filed this year, including my own which are starting to be scheduled in committees.
On a personal note, I was honored recently by being named the Citizen of the Year for Kingfisher. There are so many people in our community deserving of this recognition; it truly is humbling and deeply moving to be the recipient of such a distinguished award. I am incredibly grateful to the people who considered me for this accolade.
As always, please remember that if I can help you in any way, I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.